Several Democratic members of the Georgia Assembly held a press conference at the Gold Dome Friday morning to call for a special session on reforming the state’s gun laws.
Reps. Sandra Scott (D-76), Rebecca Mitchell (D-106), Debra Bazemore, House Democratic Caucus Chair Billy Mitchell (D-88), Karen Lupton (D-83) and Park Cannon (D-58), along with Sens. Gail Davenport (D-44) and Valencia Seay (D-34), urged their Republican colleagues to enter into serious discussions about the recent rash of mass shootings.
“Today, we stand with people all over the world for the eighth annual Gun Violence Awareness Day,” Scott said. “Every day, more than 110 Americans are killed with guns, and more than 200 more are shot or wounded. Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. And every week, there’s a number of mass shootings in this country. This is a problem heartbreakingly, uniquely American.”
Scott, herself a gun owner, called for Georgia Republicans to set aside politics and work with Democrats to develop new gun safety measures.
“I want to urge the General Assembly to put all politics aside and to pass some legislation to increase gun safety, background checks before purchasing weapons, and to ban assault weapons in the state of Georgia before it is too late,” Scott said. “As we continue to grieve for the innocent lives lost, and the pain of the families and communities impacted across the U.S., our nation, we must do something to control gun violence. Again, I’m asking the governor and the General Assembly to come together, put all political issues aside, and let’s do some true, real gun legislation, so that we can protect our children, our teachers, and all Georgians from this senseless violence.”
Scott, who served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, was near tears as she talked about the training she went through in order to be able to shoot an AR-15 and how they are designed to rip people to shreds. She said those rifles are not suitable for civilian use.
Mitchell, who lost to Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-formerly 107) in the newly-redrawn district, read off a litany of recent mass shooting sites:
“There are 15 more mass shootings between Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo,” she told reporters. “You know we don’t have a standard definition of what ‘mass shooting’ is in this country? What causes someone to be able to detach from the humanity of a child, or a grandmother at a grocery store? What makes it possible for them to look at the building full of young souls and be able to walk into it with a gun?….What’s our commitment as a state, and as a nation, to the lives of our children and our granddaughters, that they should be free to live without this fear? I’m here for the simplest of the engineering controls that are offered currently. Common-sense gun safety measures, just like the vast majority of other Georgians.”
Chief Deputy Whip Debra Bazemore said, “It saddens me that we have to be here….Tuesday, May 24 was the day an 18-year-old man, after shooting his grandmother, headed to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas to murder innocent, defenseless, unexpecting, 19 children and two teachers, totaling 21 lives. I’d like to know, where are those parents that were outraged, and were protesting, critical race theory in order to protect their children? Which, by the way, is an artificial fear. I’d also like to know, where are those parents that were outraged when their children had to wear masks during the pandemic, which we’re still in, to protect all of us. Where were those parents and legislators that advocated for legislators to remove some necessary requirements for citizens to carry? I can tell you where they are. They are standing, pointing the finger at everything and everyone else. But it’s not too late for them to choose to get on the right side of this issue, which happens to be the side of our children. All our citizens: get on the right side.”
Bazemore called out the opposition, including Governor Brian Kemp, for taking gun industry money.
“Well, you know, many of our Republican legislators are on the side of Daniel Defense, which is evident in their acceptance of money from the Georgia-based maker of the gun used in the shooting,” Bazemore said. “And our governor refused to answer, when asked, if he would consider possible gun safety laws to increase safety. Were those individual donations, and the $10,000 donation from the Republican trust fund more important than the lives that were lost? Will you continue to be reactive, just sending condolences, or will you be proactive, and pass necessary gun safety laws, which will protect our children?”
Daniel Defense is a firearms manufacturer headquartered in Black Creek near Savannah. A note on the company’s homepage reads, “We are deeply saddened by the recent tragic events in Texas. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community devastated by this evil act. As reported in Governor Abbott’s press conference, it is our understanding that the firearm used in the attack was manufactured by Daniel Defense. We will cooperate with all federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities in their investigations. We will keep the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community in our thoughts and our prayers.”
NPR reports a speech pathologist who survived the Uvalde massacre has asked a federal court to order the company “to sit for a deposition, as well as to produce materials related to its website, profits, lobbying, sales and marketing of AR-15-style rifles like the one used at the shooting.” While gunmakers can’t be sued for what a shooter does with their products, Smith and Wesson and Remington Arms have been taken to court over their marketing tactics. Daniel Defense withdrew from the NRA annual convention after backlash over a Twitter image it posted several days before the shooting:
State Rep. Rhonda Burnough (D-77), who was not able to join the press conference, issued this statement:
“During the 2022 session, legislation was passed to make educators’ jobs more difficult and the ability to purchase a weapon easier. What message are we sending to our educators, students, and constituents about keeping them safe? The governor should be calling for a special session to ensure that our schools, businesses, and churches are safe. We need background checks conducted before you purchase a weapon, restore that all gun owners need a license to carry, and raise the age to purchase assault weapons to 21 years old.”
Mitchell said, “The majority of the polls say the citizens want change. Heck, even the NRA did an internal poll, and their members say that we ought to have change. We need a culture shift in this state and in other places. The reality is, we exist in a culture now that wants guns everywhere. I literally mean everywhere. On our jobs. In our churches. In our schools. Except one place. You hear the hypocrisy in that? And that one place is in the Capitol. Fact of the matter is, we hear ‘guns don’t kill people’…then why don’t we allow them to be here in the Capitol?”
Pointing to FBI statistics that show people are more likely to be killed or injured when a gun is in their home, Mitchell added, “I think we’re going to make some news here. I can speak on behalf of the Democratic Caucus in the House. We hereby call for a special session to deal with the issue.”
Scott acknowledged, “We have no control of [whether to convene] the special session, but with the need for a special session at this time, to me, it would be the right thing to do, for gun control and gun control only.”
The Clayton Crescent and other news organizations have asked Gov. Kemp for comment on the Democrats’ request. We will update with any response. In 2018, Kemp drew national attention for his campaign ad featuring “Jake” and a double-barreled shotgun:
Since that ad was posted to YouTube on April 27, 2018, at least 332 people have died in 63 mass shootings in the United States. While the “Jake” ad itself cannot be said to have caused any of those incidents, it does reflect how GOP candidates target gun owners for votes. This year, The New York Times reports, more than 100 Republican campaign ads feature firearms.
The Clayton Crescent asked the Democratic legislators whether they had had any productive discussions about gun legislation with any of their Republican colleagues.
“No,” Scott said.
“We have had discussions,” Mitchell added. “I don’t know that we can label them as productive at this point.”
The Clayton Crescent would like to hear from local gun owners about proposed gun safety initiatives and responsible firearms ownership. Comment below or e-mail email@example.com.